City council asked for answers on botched diversity training

City Hall

George Mathewson

A Sarnia legal clinic is asking City Hall for answers following a Toronto company’s decision to halt further diversity training of Sarnia personnel.

The Kojo Institute rescinded its agreements after some unnamed councillors subjected trainer Kike Ojo-Thompson to what it called “undisputed, uncorrected and unabated hostility” during a closed-door training session on Nov. 15.

Community Legal Assistance Sarnia, in a letter to Sarnia’s mayor and council, said it was “shocked” by the actions of the unnamed councillors, as reported by The Journal last week.

In response, CLAS is calling on the city to release Kojo’s resignation letter – which has not been made public – and to explain what actions it’s taking to address what occurred.

Before last fall’s two-hour council training session on Zoom the company had also agreed to provide diversity training for Sarnia Police and senior City Hall staff.

Adam Kilner

Andrew Bolter

“We understand that as a result of the behaviours of certain councilors and the lack of intervention by others it was felt by the Institute that it would not be safe for Ms. Ojo-Thompson, a very experienced trainer, and a Black woman, to continue with further training sessions,” states the Feb. 26 letter, signed by executive director Andrew Bolter and board chair Adam Kilner.

CLAS also urged Sarnia council to immediately issue a declaration denouncing racism and hate, and to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion training for councillors and city employees.

At Monday’s council meeting, the CLAS letter was briefly discussed when raised by Coun. Nathan Colquhoun.

Council agreed to have city staff review the letter and its requests and report back at a later date.

All eight of the nine council members in attendance voted yes for the staff report. (Coun. Dave Boushy left for a medical appointment).

Community Legal Assistance Sarnia is a not-for-profit law office that represents economically disadvantaged residents in certain areas of the law, including Human Rights.